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Panthers pick DT Lotulelei in first round

CHARLOTTE – With the selection of Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, the Carolina Panthers got the instant impact defensive tackle they coveted with the 14th overall pick in the 2013 draft.

"We're very excited," general manager Dave Gettleman said. "What Star does is he impacts the game on every snap. He is a legitimate three down defensive tackle."

Added head coach Ron Rivera: "He is a space eater, and as Dave likes to refer to them, he is a true hog molly. Star is going to command the double teams; he'll hold the point of attack for us, and our linebackers will be able to flow freely."

The Panthers were thrilled to see Lotulelei available and wasted no time calling in their selection.

Lotulelei was equally excited to receive a congratulatory call from Carolina.

"I couldn't be happier with the team that picked me, the Carolina Panthers," Lotulelei said from his home in South Jordan, Utah in a conference call. "It feels great. I'm ready to get down there and get to work."

At 6-2 and 311 pounds, Lotulelei not only occupies blockers and space – a trait Luke Kuechly and the Panthers linebackers will greatly appreciate – but he has the ability to disrupt plays behind the line of scrimmage and rush the passer from his inside position.

"We feel he is going to be an impact player for us," Rivera said. "He is going to impact our pass rush."

"It starts with size and power -- that's what we like the most," Gettleman said. "He also has unusual athletic ability for a man his size. With a lot of defensive tackles, they are what we call tackle box players. Their range is very limited. Star legitimately can run to the boundary."

Lotulelei began his college career at Snow College before transferring to Utah in 2010. He became a starter in 2011 and went on to earn first-team All-Pac 12 honors in addition to winning the Morris Trophy, awarded to the best lineman in the league as voted by opposing offensive linemen. As a senior in 2012, he continued to dominate and was named an All-American.

Lotulelei finished his Utah career with 107 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, four forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and five passes defensed.

He'll immediately bolster the interior of the Panthers defensive line and help create more pass-rushing opportunities for Carolina's dynamic defensive end duo – Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, both of whom posted double-digit sacks a year ago.

"You look historically at the Super Bowl champions and you show me one that has had a bad defensive front. It doesn't happen. I'm telling you, it does not happen," Gettleman said. "Star gives us a great rotation inside. I've see what that does for you firsthand."

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